A little over a month ago, the Ravens publicized a new opening within their front office - a position titled “Quantitative Data Analyst”.
On Tuesday, it looks like the position (or positions as became clear) were filled. Three Twitter users, all from differing backgrounds but who appear to be analytically minded announced that they would be joining Baltimore’s front office in what’s presumptively within that wheelhouse.
The first was Stanford graduate Sean Clement, a former R&D specialist for the UCLA Football program, as well as a contributor to SB Nation’s Field Gulls, funny enough.
This is my last football related tweet. pic.twitter.com/LXUClu1EG3— Sean Clement (@SeanFromSeabeck) June 18, 2019
Next came an announcement from Derrick Yam, a contributor to the soccer-based analytics website, StatsBomb:
Excited to announce that I will be joining the @Ravens this summer as a Quantitative Analyst!— Derrick Yam (@YAMiAM9) June 18, 2019
Finally, Sarah Mallepalle, who appears to have come from the Philadelphia Phillies R&D department, joined in on the action as well:
The announcement about a position like this even existing for the Ravens is news in-and-of itself. A lot of the football world is still in the learning stages of how to embrace and utilize analytics, and some franchises seem opposed to the idea altogether.
To be fair, it’s pretty understandable for such a complex sport, one that’s inherently structured to have so many moving pieces. The NFL is arguably the most nuanced major league in the world, so getting to the cutting edge of it will likely be more difficult to do than we’ve seen in leagues like the MLB or NBA.
Still, the teams who have shown a willingness to attempt do so have wrought some serious benefits out of it. Howie Roseman has turned the Eagles into perennial contenders through usage of salary cap manipulation. This can largely be attributed to Roseman’s analytical background and ultimately, that’s really what it’s all about - exploiting market inefficiencies. One of the more famous examples of doing such a thing was popularized by the Ravens in their method of accruing compensatory picks back before it became a commonly used strategy.
The word has very much gotten out regarding Eric DeCosta’s interest in analytics, and ESPN’s Bill Barnwell says that these hires have his fingerprints all over them:
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has had a long-standing interest in analytics. With DeCosta taking over the reigns from Ozzie Newsome this offseason, it’s no surprise that they’re announcing three analytics hires (@sarah_malle, @yamiam9, and @SeanFromSeabeck) today.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) June 18, 2019
DeCosta’s interest in the topic doesn’t appear to be surface level, either. His friendship with Orioles assistant general manager Sig Mejdal is another indicator that he’s seriously invested in quantitative analysis:
Orioles Assistant GM Sig Mejdal took in Ravens practice today. Mejdal and Ravens GM Eric DeCosta are friends.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) June 12, 2019
For those unfamiliar, Mejdal helped build the programs and algorithms that were instrumental in two of the most successful baseball rebuilds this century, first with the St. Louis Cardinals, and more recently with the Houston Astros. He and current Orioles GM Mike Elias came to Baltimore in 2018 to try and raise the Titanic that is Camden Yards, but apparently, he and DeCosta’s friendship stretch back before even that happened.
Ultimately, whatever anyone’s thoughts are on analytics, the very least that they are is just another tool upon which to try and build a Super Bowl contender. The fact that Ravens are making hires like these as Eric DeCosta further makes his mark on the franchise shows they’re very much serious about doing winning.